Today, March 26th, is the anniversary of the 2010 sinking of the ROKS Cheonan near the North Korean sea border.
104 personnel were on board when an explosion occurred, causing the ship to break in two. 58 crew were rescued, while the remaining 46 went missing. During the rescue efforts a South Korean naval diver died while another was hospitalized. A fishing boat involved in the rescue operations collided and sank, killing two with another seven going missing. None of the 46 missing crewmembers were found alive.
At that moment the whole world was looking sideways towards North Korea. On May 20th an international commission reported findings that strongly indicated a North Korean torpedo to be the guilty culprit. Yet the country adamantly denied any responsibility.
A few months after the incident, despite denying any involvement, this poster depicting a ship of the same type as Cheonan being crushed into two pieces was distributed in North Korea. The slogan saying: “We’ll take it down with a single blow if it attacks!”
I don’t know who said it first, but it is often repeated with resignation that the only predictable thing about North Korea is – that it is unpredictable. One thing that is for sure is that it is startlingly poorly understood; by the West, by the US – and often even by the South Koreans.
That is why, in the days to come, I’ll grab the opportunity provided by this anniversary to try to explain some of the things we ought to come to grabs with when it comes to the Hermit Kingdom!